Top 5 Eco-Friendly Food Swaps

Last week, we talked eco-friendly kitchen swaps. And this week, we’re drilling down even further to food specific swaps! We all know that if you can find a specific item in the bulk section (grains, spices, oil/vinegar, tea/coffee, candy/chocolate, baking ingredients), you should go for that and stick it in your own containers. But here are some other food items that usually aren’t in the bulk aisle that I’ve found some alternatives for.

  1. The item: Yogurt in plastic container
    The swap: Yogurt in glass containers
    My husband goes through A LOT of yogurt. Which also means a lot of plastic cartons. I found this brand at Whole Foods and Central Market that sells their (delicious) yogurt in large glass jars. Bonus — I reuse the jars afterwards for storage. Also — if you want a single serving yogurt option — Yoplait now has cute little French style glass jars.
  2. The item: Bags of frozen berries
    The swap: Pick your own berries or buy at the farmer’s market when in season and then freeze away!
    I pick enough blueberries during the summer to last an entire year for smoothie, jam, and pie making. Strawberries are a little tougher since I haven’t found a pick your own farm nearby. BUT I’ve been able to snag strawberries without any packaging at the farmer’s market (and occasionally at Central Market) to then freeze for later.
  3. The item: Bread in a plastic bag
    The swaps: Make your own bread or pick up from the bakery section in your own bag
    I have a bread machine that I use to make my own bread about half the time. However, if I am looking for a specific type of bread that I don’t have the ingredients to make, I just grab a package free loaf from the bakery section at Central Market and stick it in an old pillowcase.
  4. The item: Ice cream in a carton (these cartons are usually not recyclable unless your city specifically mentions it)
    The swap: DIY ice cream
    I have an old ice cream maker given to me by a friend. That + the 4 ingredients required to make vanilla ice cream allows me to have delicious, fresh, ice cream any time I want. And you can have fun creating your own flavors using the vanilla base!
  5. The item: Vegetable broth in a carton
    The swap: DIY broth
    Save veggie scraps (i.e. onion, celery, bell pepper, carrot) in a container in your freezer. When full, boil + simmer the veggies in water. Bam — veggie broth. (And absolutely no waste.)

    What are some swaps you’ve made food wise?

Top 5 Eco-Friendly Kitchen Swaps

ICYMI — 2 weeks ago I wrote about my top 5 eco-friendly bathroom swaps. So now it’s time to move on to the kitchen! First up — let’s talk about those kitchen cleaning and organization items (food items are a whole other story!).

  1. The item: Paper towels
    The swaps: Cloth napkins (or IKEA dish towels) for dining and old tea towels for spills, cleaning, etc.
    I found our cloth napkins at Homegoods years ago (but you can also cut up an old sheet and hem the edges if you want to be extra conscious). I also find cloth napkins to just feel a bit more special so it’s a win-win. And old tea towels, hand towels, microfiber rags are all used for any kitchen cleaning required. Basically — I don’t buy paper towels at all anymore.
  2. The item: Dishwasher detergent packets
    The swaps: Bulk detergent or powder detergent in a cardboard box
    I was able to get my hands on bulk detergent from Refill Revolution (they shipped it to me in a little pouch (with a stamp on it) that I just stuck back in the mailbox after I emptied it out into my own container. However, they’ve been sold out for a while now and I have yet to see bulk detergent in the Dallas area. My backup is the eco-friendly powder detergent that comes in a recyclable cardboard box.
  3. The item: Dish soap in a plastic bottle
    The swaps: Dish soap in a glass bottle
    I did really try to just use a bar soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) to hand wash dishes BUT it just left too much white residue… so ultimately, you ended up wasting water just to keep rinsing away all the residue. I managed to snag normal dish soap in glass bottles at my local Homegoods/TJMaxx. The pump mechanism is plastic but I will be sending that one piece to TerraCycle. I’ve also heard of Common Good products — they have refill stations across the country and now you can get refills shipped to you in containers that utilize much less plastic than buying new bottles each time.
  4. The item: Conventional sponges
    The swaps: Redecker Dish Brush and cellulose sponges
    I love my Redecker dish brush… the brush heads are replaceable and compostable so wins all around! Cellulose sponges are also compostable — I’ve found some at Trader Joe’s. I also recently came across walnut scouring pads online!
  5. The item: Plastic tupperware
    The swaps: Glass or metal canisters
    Listen — if you already have a ton of plastic tupperware. USE IT. Don’t go out and buy new stuff. However, if your tupperware is on it’s last leg and you need new food storage options — make the switch over (after recycling the old stuff) to glass or metal. These options last significantly longer and don’t tend to get as gross as the plastic options over time. And honestly, you can just start saving glass jars from peanut butter, pickles, coconut oil, whatever else you buy and reuse those as storage for all your bulk items. And speaking of bulk items… we’ll talk more about that next week!

Eco-Friendly or Zero Waste School Supplies

This Wednesday… July turns into August. And many of us start looking forward to the crispness of fall (my favorite season) and new beginnings. As a kid though, August meant one thing. Back-to-school school supply shopping. Walking around OfficeMax… buying the perfect matching notebooks and folders. Ah. Bliss.

Fast forward 20 years and I still get somewhat nostalgic for those beautiful school supplies. I get a little giddy seeing all the new adorable stuff available at Target. BUT — man. The whole thing is super wasteful. The packaging surrounding the supplies and then the ultimate toss to the landfill. Or even just the mass of school supplies that end up dragged to Goodwill when you are 25 and stuck cleaning your childhood closet…

But there is a way to be somewhat mindful of the supplies your kiddos buy while also teaching them about the environment. Win-win. The goal is to find as many supplies as possible that can a. be re-used year over year b. get used up or composted c. get recycled d. at least made of recycled materials to begin with. Also, if you can find something secondhand. That’s great too.

Anything linked below are just examples of the stuff out there (with good reviews). Price points can be across the board but with a little hunting (or thrifting), I’m sure a deal can be had.

Backpacks
Thrift/find secondhand if possible. Or find one made out of 100% cotton. Or at the very least, pick one with a lifetime warranty.

Lunchboxes
Thrift/find secondhand if possible. Or find one made out of stainless steel or 100% cotton. Better yet, thrift a stainless steel lunch box.

Pencil Pouch
Thrift/find secondhand if possible. Or find one made out of 100% cotton.

Notebooks
Find ones made out of recycled material without any weird binding. Like this. Recycle the whole thing when no longer needed. (If it just HAS to have the spiral, try this one. Or this one. And at least recycle all the paper.)

Notebook Paper
Eco-friendly filler paper. Recycle when done.

Construction Paper
100% recycled construction paper. Recycle when done.

Folders
100% recycled folders. Recycle when done.

Crayons
Beeswax crayons! Use it up.

Colored Pencils
Pencils from environmentally well-managed forests.

Markers
Not ideal BUT Crayola will recycle any brand markers (and highlighters).

Highlighters
If your kids’ school is flexible — they now sell eco-friendly highlighter pencils!

Pens
I don’t think many kids want to carry around a fountain pen so best bet… just use up all those random pens given to you over the years at events. Once those are used up, find pens that are made out of recycled materials. And don’t toss your old pens away — send them to Pen Guy Art!

Pencils
There’s a lot of debate over whether regular pencils or mechanical ones are more eco-friendly. I think if you aren’t losing mechanical pencils all the time and find one made out of recycled materials, it’s a great choice. Otherwise, regular pencils without any frills are a good choice. These pencils are neat because they can be planted after they are too small to use to grow plants!

Eraser
Recycled rubber eraser stick. Use up.

Glue
Elmer’s has a natural glue stick. Recycle the packaging when used up.

Scissors
Find one with stainless steel blades and recyclable or biodegradable plastic handles. Maybe like this one.

Ruler
Get the stainless steel one.

Top 5 Eco-Friendly Bathroom Swaps

When first making the swap over to more eco-friendly or zero waste products, it’s hard not to wonder if you’ll also be downgrading on quality or efficacy. Fear not, my friends! It is possible to find products that are both good for the environment AND awesome to use. First up — we’ll be exploring the bathroom items.

  1. The item: Conventional toilet paper
    The swaps: Tushy bamboo toilet paper + bidet
    I LOVE this toilet paper. I buy a massive box of 50 (to get the free shipping) and it lasts a year. The toilet paper is soft and not at all scratchy. It also comes wrapped in paper — no plastic here! In addition, the same company also has some pretty sweet bidets, which we have in our master bath. Another way to reduce the usage of toilet paper (you’ll still need to use SOME but not as much as without a bidet).
  2. The item: Liquid hand soap
    The swap: Dr. Bronner’s bar soap
    Always an easy swap but one a lot of people don’t do. Ditch the liquid hand soap (unless you are near a store that you can get bulk refills from) and switch over to a bar. I love the Dr. Bronner’s bar soap because you can also use it to hand wash clothes and a billion other things. It also comes wrapped in recycled paper (so throw the wrapper in your recycle bin or compost pile).
  3. The item: Liquid shampoo
    The swap: Lush shampoo bars
    My husband and I both use the same shampoo bar and we get a good 6 months out of it. The lather on these shampoo bars are great (especially for my super thick hair) and they are completely package free.
  4. The item: Floss
    The swap: Water flosser
    My husband is all about that dental hygiene life and he loves his water flosser. This significantly cuts down on all those little pieces of floss that end up in the landfill.
  5. The item: Cotton balls + rounds
    The swap: Cotton fabric rounds + cut up old towels
    Another super easy swap that you probably don’t even need to buy anything for. I use cotton fabric rounds to put on toner and remove makeup. Once used, I throw in a little bag that goes in the laundry. Done. To remove nail polish, I use a cut up old dish towel and it works just fine.

What are some of your bathroom swaps?

Plastic Free July Time

Happy July! AND Happy Plastic Free July! Started in Australia, Plastic Free July now reaches over 2 million people across the globe. During the month of July, participants commit to reduce and eliminate plastic use. You can choose to 1. Avoid single use plastic packaging 2. Eliminate use of takeaway items (bags, bottles, straws, coffee cups) or 3. Go completely plastic-free. I highly recommend registering here and committing to even one small change! The Plastic Free July site also has great tips on reducing your plastic waste. Read on to learn about some of the easiest changes you can make this month and links to some past posts if you want to go even more in depth!

  1. Bring your own shoppings bags as well as canvas or mesh produce bags to hold fruits, veggies, and bulk items.
  2. No straws! Learn to say “no straw please” whenever you get a drink at a restaurant or bar. If you MUST have a straw, bring along your own stainless steel one.
  3. Avoid plastic cutlery during your summertime picnics/bbqs/events. Use your usual washable flatware or get compostable wooden cutlery.
  4. Say no to the single use plastic water bottles. I guarantee you have some reusable water bottles laying around the house from some event or another. Commit to using it!
  5. Make your own coffee and tea at home OR bring your own cup to the coffee shop.
  6. Avoid plastic wrap when storing food. Use reusable beeswax wraps, glass storage containers, and compostable parchment paper.

And if you are looking to REALLY get into the plastic free or zero waste life, check out the following:

An exhaustive list of common household items and less wasteful alternatives.

Common swaps you can make for a less wasteful summer.

Ladies — how to have a more eco-friendly period.

Traveling this summer? Check it out.

Have a dog? Get your doggos in on the eco-friendly action.

Need some less wasteful, more reusable items? My zero waste wish list.